Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Rings of Light - Hazy Pale Ale

Cleared by the final runnings.

My homebrewing-rate has slowed dramatically the last couple months, not coincidentally we brewed our first batch at the brewery around that time (House Saison brew day). Part of that is brewing 10 bbls about twice a week, the rest is how much time I spend at the brewery doing other stuff. My plan for The Mad Fermentationist is to keep up the same style of post, with recipes and tasting notes for occasional Sapwood Cellars beers. I'll still document homebrew batches when I can, mostly test batches or experiments with impractically weird ingredients.

The first beer I wanted to cover is my favorite of the initial four clean batches, Rings of Light. For those interested the name, is a subtle The Fellowship of the Rings reference: "They watched the pale rings of light round his lanterns as they dwindled into the foggy night." It is exactly the sort of beer I love drinking, moderate alcohol (4.8% ABV), but with a huge hop flavor and aroma and a surprisingly luscious mouthfeel. Luckily Untappd reviews have been pretty positive, and it is our tasting room's top seller so far!

You'll likely recognize most of the elements of the recipe as things Scott and I have been doing for years. Golden Naked Oats, Chit malt, Boddington's yeast (RVA Manchester), moderate-high chloride and sulfate, less expensive hops in the boil (Cascade and Columbus), and Citra dry-hopping. We added mid-late fermentation additions to several of our other batches, but this one was soft-crashed to 58F before dry hopping so we could harvest the yeast for re-pitching into an IPA (Cheater Hops) and DIPA (Uncontrollable Laughter). 

Scott dry hopping Rings of Light.

The process tweaks have mostly been to account for the differences related to the physics of working at scale. For example, usually I'd add a small dose of hops at 15 minutes to up the bitterness, but in this case the extended contact after flame-out makes that unnecessary (between whirlpool, settling, and run-off near-boiling wort is in contact with hops for more than a hour). In fact, we added one barrel of cold water at flame-out to lower the whirlpool temperature to reduce isomerization. Beersmith 3 includes the capability to specify the average temperature of the wort during the whirlpool, still the estimate seems to be wildly higher than the perceived bitterness. I wonder if the hops settling, mixing with the proteins in the trub-cone slows the isomerization rate?

It has taken a little time to dial in our Forgeworks brew house. We achieved slightly lower efficiency and attenuation on this batch than expected for example. We've made a few mistakes and miscalculations along the way, but given neither of us had brewed frequently at a commercial scale I'm happy to report that things have been relatively smooth. Our biggest issues have been with the durability of the equipment itself. For example the rakes in the mash tun detached from the motor twice, and our burner shorted after a boil-over. What is taking the most effort to optimize is our cleaning and sanitation regimen. 

Kegging pale ale.

Thanks to everyone who came out to our grand opening last weekend! I didn't expect as many fans of the blog to drive from an hour or more away to try the beers and say hello. Either Scott or I will be there most of the time we're open, so let us know! Happy to show you around and talk brewing. For those further away, I'm also running the brewery's Twitter and Facebook accounts for now (Scott took Instagram because I couldn't figure it out).

Rings of Light in the tasting room.

Rings of Light

Smell – Pleasantly mango-melon hop aroma. As it approaches room temperature I get a slightly toasty-vanilla-richness thanks to the yeast playing off the Golden Naked Oats. Otherwise a pretty clean/fresh aroma.

Appearance – Pleasantly hazy yellow, glowing in the right lighting. I guess we did an adequate job avoiding oxygen pickup during transfers and kegging as it hasn’t darkened! We certainly pulled some hop matter into the bright tank, but it mostly settled out and stayed behind when we kegged, as I don’t see any particulate in the pour. Head is really thick, but could have better retention.

Taste – I really love the flavor on this, really saturated with juicy hops. Similar to the aroma, the tropical flavors from the Citra dominate the Cascade and Columbus. We were surprised how hop-forward it was even before dry hopping (perhaps thanks to the deep kettle slowing the evaporation of the oils?). Bitterness is pleasant, but restrained. Well below the estimated 70+ IBUs, more like 40-50 to my palate.

Mouthfeel – Full bodied, especially for a  sub-5% beer. That is thanks to the oats, and low attenuation (which allowed for more malt for the given alcohol). As usually the substantial texture of the head from the chit malt really enhances the perception of creaminess.

Drinkability & Notes – Glad this beer ended up as an early-fall release. It is a little full for a quenching summer pale ale, but it is perfect for temperate weather. The hops are well balanced, and provide enough interest to demand each additional sip. The malt mostly stays hidden, while providing adequate support.

Changes for Next Time – We’ve already got a new batch of this fermenting with the same grist and kettle-hops, although given the tweaks (higher original gravity and different yeast: Lallemand New England and S-04) it may receive a different name.

Recipe

Batch Size: 315.00 gal
SRM: 4.9
IBU: 73.7
OG: 1.052
FG: 1.018
ABV: 4.8%
Final pH: 4.54
Brewhouse Efficiency: 68%
Boil Time: 60 Mins

Fermentables
-----------------
75% - 495 lbs Rahr 2-Row Brewer's Malt
16.7% - 110 lbs Simpsons Golden Naked Oats
8.3% - 55 lbs Best Chit Malt

Mash
-------
Mash In - 60 min @ 153F

Hops
-------
11 lbs Cascade (Pellets, 7.20% AA) - Steep/Whirlpool 75.0 min
11 lbs Columbus (Pellets, 15.70% AA) - Steep/Whirlpool 75.0 min
22 lbs Citra (Pellets, 12.00% AA) - Dry Hop Day 10

Other
-------
40 g Whirlfloc G @ 15 mins

Water
-------
200 ml Phosphoric Acid 75% @ Mash
1.00 lb Calcium Chloride @ Mash
0.70 lb Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate) @ Mash
50 ml Phosphoric Acid 75% @ Sparge

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
120
150
100
20
5
100

Yeast
-------
RVA Manchester Ale #132

Notes
-------
Brewed 8/29/18

Collected 315 gallons of water.

All salts and 100 ml acid right after mash-in. Ran rakes for 15 minutes, started recirculation 10 minutes after mash in. After 10 min of recirculation, measured temp at 152.8F.

Measured mash pH at 5.42, add 50 mL more acid. 5.39, add 50 mL more acid. 5.34.

Sparge water 183F, pH 6.47 with acid addition - more next time

Start of boil with 11 bbls of 1.055 runnings.

Added 1 bbl of cold water at the start of the whirlpool. Combined temperature 196F, added hops.

Run-off started at 66F. .5L/min of O2 through in-line stone.

Ended up with a wort temperature of 64F. Set tank to to 66F. By the next morning the glycol chiller had popped the breaker and the tank was at 69F... Reset and lowered to 67F.

8/31 Raised set-point to 69F to ensure finish.

9/3 Fermentation appears nearly complete from lack of CO2 production. Tastes good, better hop aroma than expected. Up to 70F to ensure it is done before soft crashing.

9/6 Harvested yeast. Left blow-off open so no dissolved CO2.

9/7 Dry hopped with 22 lbs of Citra through the top port while running 25 PSI of CO2 and blow-off arm closed. Closed everything and add 5 PSI as head pressure.

9/8 Pushed 15 PSI through racking arm for 1 minute to rouse, 18 hours after dry hopping. Dropped temperature to 54F.

9/9 Pushed 15 PSI through racking arm for 1 minute. Dropped temperature to 50F.

9/10 Crashed to 36F.

9/12 Moved to bright tank. 3 L/min of CO2 set to 16 PSI got to ~11 PSI at 36 F. 2.6 volumes of CO2 prior to kegging.

9/15 Kegged, 17 kegs with the last almost full.

I get a commission if you buy something after clicking the links to MoreBeer/Amazon/Adventures in Homebrewing/Great Fermentations!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Hoppy-Spicy Rye Golden Ale

Split Test Batch Rye

I have nothing against brewing to-style. You can make magnificent and delicious beers by using ingredients from a single region with the goal of a classic balance. That isn't who I am as a brewer though. The recipe for Sapwood Cellars' False Dragon is the sort that I'm passionate about. We selected ingredients from all over the globe to create a flavors and aromas that aren't authentic to any one tradition. What I wanted was an earthy-crisp malt flavor, a white-winey hop aroma (for less money than Nelson Sauvin), and a subtle spicy and fruity-boost from the yeast without getting in the way. That required malts from America and England, hops from America and Germany, and yeast from England and Belgium.

Scott adding Centennial hops to the whirlpool

I'd been experimenting with the hop bill for a few months to get the ratio right, and eventually settled on 2:1 in favor of Mosaic. After a few test batches, Scott and I have embraced adding less expensive hops on the hot-side (Cascade, Columbus, Chinook, Centennial etc.) with the more aromatic and expensive varieties saved for the fermentor. I wanted to split my homebrewed test batch to compare S-04 alone against S-04 with 8% T-58. As with Ziparillo, dry yeast is cost-effective especially if you can't repitch thanks to early or mid-fermentation dry hopping. Belgian strains have shown heightened biotranformation abilities is some studies, so it seemed like a good candidate for double dry-hopping.

Dry yeast pitched into a 10 bbl batch

For the 10 bbl batch we decided to fill-in a gap in our range when the first batch of Rings of Light (our Citra dry-hopped hazy pale ale) came in under-alcohol at 4.8% thanks to lower-than-expected efficiency. In effect the two recipes switched places with False Dragon becoming the "bigger" pale ale at 5.3% rather than the 4.7% of the test batch. Our attenuation has been lower than expected across the board for our first five batches too. We're still trying to figure out the cause given it has happened with multiple yeast strains - likely mash related. Luckily our hop flavor and aroma have both been wildly better than either Scott or I have been able to achieve at home, I'm sure surface-to-volume ratio plays a role.

Your first chance to try this beer is at the Sapwood Cellars grand opening, Noon-10 PM on Saturday 9/29. We'll be open Thursday-Friday 4-10 PM and Saturdays Noon-10 PM from then on. Stop in, drink a beer, say hello!

The name False Dragon come from The Wheel of Time series of books by Robert Jordan. My commute has gone from 20 minutes on the subway to my desk job to ~40 minutes by car. Audio books are my new friend. While I'm sure brewing podcasts would be a more productive use of my time, after 12 hours brewing it is nice to have a little escapism.

Test batch False Dragon with S-04

False Dragon S-04

Smell – Had to go for a fresh pour after taking photos as it had gone a hint skunky after five minutes in the sun… Nose is a fresh “true” hop aroma to the Mosaic and Hallertau Blanc. White wine, but also some blueberry and green/herbaceous. Certainly Nelson-reminiscent, but a unique character as well.

Appearance – Pale yellow, pleasantly hazy. Good head and lacing, but the foam itself feels airy on the tongue. I guess I’ve gotten used (and miss) to the contribution of chit malt.

Taste – A firm amount of bitterness in the finish, but it doesn’t linger. Light and bright with the tropical-fruity hops starring. Rye doesn’t really make a strong showing, although I’ve always found it more subtle than some others taste.

Mouthfeel – The rye helps prevent it from being watery, but it is a summery pale ale. Glad we ended up a little higher OG/FG on the big batch. Medium carbonation, nice for a lighter beer.

Drinkability & Notes – A pleasant session IPA. The Mosaic and Hallertau Blanc work better together than apart.

Changes for Next Time – 10% chit in place of the base malt wouldn’t hurt. Could certainly up the rye too for a bigger contribution.

Test batch False Dragon with S-04 and T-58

S-04 and T-58

Smell – More rounded, less grassy-distinct hop aroma. Tropical, juicy, inviting. The green flavors are now more honeydew melon. Impossible to say how much of that is actual hop chemical reaction, or synergistic between the hops and esters. Lightly bready.

Appearance – Looks similar in terms of head, color, and clarity.

Taste – Lower perceived bitterness. A more saturated/integrated fruity hop flavor. Passionfruit especially. I think this is the more approachable and interesting beer, and distinct from the other English-only fermentation we are doing (using RVA Manchester). Slightly elevated phenols, but much lower than from the WB-06 in Ziparillo.

Mouthfeel – Slightly creamier (perhaps just the lower perceived bitterness?), identical carbonation.

Drinkability & Notes – I was able to identify these pretty easily in a blind tasting. It is amazing how much impact such a small amount of yeast can make.

Changes for Next Time – We decided to back down the T-58 4.4% of the blend to allow a bit more of that fresh/distinct hop character through. Other than the higher gravity, the recipe was otherwise unchanged for the 315 gallon batch! We’ll probably up the rye for batch #2 now that we know we can handle higher percentages of high beta-glucan huskless grains.

False Dragon - Test Batch

Batch Size: 11.00 gal
SRM: 4.1
IBU: 30.0
OG: 1.046
FG: 1.012/1.012
ABV: 4.7%
Final pH: 4.43/4.49
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72%
Boil Time: 60 mins

Fermentables
-----------------
75.6% - 17 lbs Rahr 2-Row Brewer's Malt
14.4% - 3.25 lbs Briess Rye Malt
10.0 % - 2.25 lbs Crisp Floor Malted Maris Otter

Mash
-------
Mash In - 45 min @ 156F

Hops
-------
8.00 oz Centennial (Pellet, 7.20%) @ 30 min Steep/Whirlpool
6.00 oz Mosaic (Pellet, 12.25%) @ Dry Hop Day 3
3.00 oz Hallertau Blanc (Pellet, 10.50%) @ Dry Hop Day 3
6.00 oz Mosaic (Pellet, 12.25%) @ Dry Hop Day 7
3.00 oz Hallertau Blanc (Pellet, 10.50%) @ Dry Hop Day 7

Other
-------
1 Whirlfloc Tablet @ 5 mins

Water
-------
18 g Calcium Chloride
12 g Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate)
6 tsp Phosphoric Acid 10%

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
150
150
150
15
10
90

Yeast
-------
11.5 g SafAle S-04 English Ale
or
11.5 g SafAle S-04 English Ale
1 g SafBrew T-58 Specialty Ale

Notes
-------
Brewed 8/19/18

Mash pH = 5.44 (at mash temp) after acid additions.

Collected 14.5 gallons of 1.046 runnings.

Added heat to maintain a whirlpool temperature of 200F.

Chilled to 64F. Half with 1 g of T-58 and 11 g of S-04, and half with only 11 g of S-04. Left at 62F ambient to begin fermentation after shaking to aerate.

69F internal temperature during peak fermentation.

8/22 Dry hopped each with 3 oz of Mosaic and 1.5 oz of Hallertau Blanc.

8/27 Second dry hop for both.

9/1 Kegged both, 1.012, moved to fridge to chill.

9/2 Hooked up to gas and tapped to remove sludge. S-04 batch clogged poppet a few times.

I get a commission if you buy something after clicking the links to MoreBeer/Amazon/Adventures in Homebrewing/Great Fermentations!

Brite tank sample of False Dragon

Monday, September 10, 2018

I, Beer: What Goes Into Brewing

I, Pencil is a classic economics essay from 1958 by Leonard Read about the complexity of making a pencil. The iconic yellow #2 seems so simple, yet no one person could make it on their own (e.g., harvest the rubber, synthesis the polymers and pigments for the eraser, create the yellow paint, precisely cut the wood and graphite, mine and forge the metal band etc. ). The global economy doesn't have any person or group coordinating all of this activity, but to earn money people and companies fill niches, specialize, and compete to buy and sell in ways that creates things of immense complexity requiring the sum work of hundreds of people across continents so you can buy a pencil for $.25. This video gives a more hands-on view of what it takes to make a chicken sandwich when you don't buy anything from a supermarket.

It is tempting to say that beer isn’t like that. After all, each all-grain batch starts with the four basic ingredients and we do the rest… sure it would be a challenge to grow and malt barley, harvest and dry hops, isolate/propagate wild yeast, and haul water from a local stream, but what vessels would you use to boil/ferment? What about sanitizer, minerals, clarifiers, compressed CO2?

What follows is a high-level overview of what is required to brew a single batch of beer at Sapwood Cellars. Obviously, you could keep digging deeper into each one of these, peeling back layer-after-layer to the inputs of each input (e.g., the shoes that the hop harvester was wearing). I’ll arbitrarily stop where I lose interest. Needless to say though, the work of thousands in not millions of people goes into each of our batches. Scott and I just get the credit (or blame) because we're the ones at the end of the chain!

Ingredients

Water

Our water comes from Liberty Reservoir. From there it goes to Baltimore’s Ashburton water treatment plant. Baltibrew posted a nice series on the Baltimore water system. Luckily for us the existing minerals are mostly beneficial to the character of our beer. The carbonate is a bit higher than we’d like, but not by enough to require the waste of reverse osmosis.

Once pipes take it to the brewery it passes through a carbon filter to remove chlorine, and then an on-demand hot water heater. The fuel is natural gas piped into the brewery by BG&E (by way of fracking or older methods, and then refining). From there the water travels through a hose to our hot liquor tank where an electric element allows us to adjust the temperature. The electricity comes from a mix of fossil fuels, nuclear, and ~5% renewables.

To adjust the mineral content of the water, we add calcium chloride (from limestone-hydrochloric acid reaction or natural brine concentration) and calcium sulfate (harvested and refined from gypsum rock deposits). In addition, we add 75% phosphoric acid to adjust the pH of the water. Phosphoric acid is usually produced by combustion, hydration, and demisted from three ingredients: phosphorus, air, and water.


Grains

The grain we mash is a mixture of barley, wheat, oats, and rye depending on the beer. These are grown primarily on farms in North America and Europe. It is then soaked, sprouted, dried, and kilned by a maltster. The precise equipment required varies by malt and producer. In some cases it is a large industrial operation, in others the malt is still manually turned. The bulk of our base malt is Rahr brewer’s 2-row from Minnesota, but in our first order we also had sacks from Briess, Chateau, Simpsons, Crisp, Best etc. Most of the unmalted flaked grains (steamed and rolled to gelatinize their starches) are from Grain Millers.

We decided to hold-off on buying our own mill, to save the cost at the start… but after a few brews I can say a mill and auger are in our near future. We order our grains from Brewers Supply Group, which pre-mills the grain. We also occasionally add a few sacks to a Maryland Homebrew order from Country Malt.

Once we’re done with the now “spent” grain, they are picked-up by Keith of Porch View Farms. He feeds it to his animals as most of the carbohydrates are extracted into the wort, but proteins remain.


Hops

Our hops are grown throughout the higher latitudes of the globe, primarily the Pacific Northwest of the United States, but also Australia, Germany, and Czech Republic. The hops are first stripped from their bines, dried in an oast, and then baled. After selection, various lots are blended to create a consistent product and the hops are pulverized and pelletized. They are then vacuum-packed in mylar and stored cold to preserve their aromatics. Our hops primarily came from Hop Havoc, but we’re working on getting contracts for the upcoming harvest.


Yeast

Most of the yeast we’re using are the decedents of yeast that have been fermenting beer for hundreds or thousands of years. A couple hundred years ago their ancestors were part of a mixed-culture at breweries in England and Belgium, only to be lucky (and talented) enough to be isolated as a pure culture that gained success. Our Saccharomyces cerevisiae so far has come from RVA, Fermentis, and Lallemand for our “clean” beers. These needed to be isolated, propagated, and in some cases dried.

The sour and wild beers are too complex to track. They come from labs, bottle dregs, and a house culture. They may have come via a barrel, the breeze, an insect, or any number of other vectors into a brewery or labs. For example the Hanseniaspora vineae we are fermenting a hoppy sour for Denizen's Make It Funky festival came from Wild Pitch Yeast which isolated it from tree bark.


Fruit

We don’t have any beers far enough along for fruit, but we’re planning to source as much of it as we can directly from local farms and orchards. Most fruit is at its best when it is picked ripe and used quickly. I'm sure we'll use dried fruit, aseptic purees, juices, and freeze-dried fruits depending on quality, availability, and desired results as well. The first batch will probably be a tart saison on grape pumace (the pressed skins) from a local natural winery.


Other Consumables

Gas

Carbon dioxide is usually produced as a byproduct of some other activity (e.g., hydrocarbon processing). Our CO2 is stored in a 750 lb tank in a liquid state. We use it to carbonate and serve beer. It isn't economical at our scale to recapture the CO2 released by fermentation. Our supplier is Robert’s Oxygen.

As the air on Earth is 70% nitrogen it is usually concentrated with the use of a nitrogen generator. These rely on a membrane that allows nitrogen through. We need nitrogen to help push the beer through the long-lines from our walk-in to the tasting room (pure CO2 would lead to over-carbonation at those pressures). As the second most abundant gas in the atmosphere, oxygen generation uses similar technologies. We pump .5L/minute into the wort as it exits the heat exchanger, the yeast quickly uses it to create sterols for healthy cell walls when they bud. We get these two gases in large cylinders that are swapped out.

Chemicals

We need cleaners like caustic (sodium hydroxide) to remove organic deposits, and a phosphoric-nitric acid blend to remove inorganic beer stone and passivate the stainless steel. For sanitation we use iodophor for fittings in buckets, and peracetic acid for the tanks. These are made in a variety of industrial processes that I’m totally unaware of. Our chemicals are provided by Zep/AFCO.

Clarifier

Whirlfloc G helps proteins clump together in the last 15 minutes of the boil to be left behind. It is derived from Irish moss (seaweed) that is dried and granulated. As a vegan brewery, no gelatin or isinglass for us.

Barrels

Oak barrels start as oak trees. They are processed into planks, and then purchased by a cooperage which dries (either in a kiln or naturally). They are then assembled into barrels with metal hops, toasted, and sealed. From there they go to vineyards and distilleries that age their products in them. Beer is best in barrels that have already lost much of their oak character, so we buy them from other producers. A small amount of the wine or spirit is still present in the wood, providing a moderate contribution to the first batch, diminishing with each additional batch.


Equipment

The stainless steal for the vast majority of our equipment comes from China. Our brewhouse was constructed by Forgeworks in Colorado. Our fermentors and bright tank from Apex and DME in China. Our keg washer from Colorado Brewing.

The cooling of the fermentors is accomplished by a glycol chiller from G&D Chillers in Oregon. The ethylene glycol itself comes from ethylene and oxygen. The chiller also assists chilling the wort with our two-stage Thermaline heat exchanger (primarily more stainless steel). The copper pipes that carry the glycol are insulated with Armaflex. The flow of the glycol to individual tanks is controlled by electronic temperature sensors and solenoid valves.

Other equipment includes hydrometer, refractometer, pH meter, hoses, gaskets, and all manner of other valves and fittings.

For the space itself there was already plenty of concrete, bricks and metal. We hired Kolb Electric and B&B Pipefitters to do the installation of the bulk of the wires, pipes, and connections.

There is also everything that goes into serving a beer once it is ready. Kegs (Corny kegs for the sours and infusions, sanke for the standard clean beers), stainless steel fittings, beer lines, glasses (including the printed logo and the glasswasher) etc.


What’s the Point?

I don’t really have one. To me it is just remarkable how much of the complexity of brewing a batch of beer is now hidden in the inputs. I know how to brew beer at my house or a brewery, but if you put me out in the woods even with all the ingredients, I couldn’t brew a batch. Thinking about what is required for each batch makes me appreciate how nice it is to live in a time when I can brew beer as simply as going online and ordering the equipment and ingredients I want. It also shows me how much I still have to learn about making beer.

At the same time, it means that beers everywhere are mostly separated by the choices the brewer makes rather than the availability of ingredients. The exchange of information accelerated by the Internet. I hope there continue to be regional variations, specialties, and preferences. Traveling isn't as exciting when everyone brews NEIPA and pastry stouts.


Friday, August 31, 2018

Hoppy Wheat: Hop-Stand vs. Quick Chill

There are a lot of IPA drinkers out there, but I get the feeling that there are just as many people who would enjoy the fruity-tropical flavors in New England IPAs, but were scared off by the IBU-arms-race of earlier this decade. I wanted to develop a session beer for Sapwood Cellars that showcases fruit-salad hoppiness without assertive bitterness. Sort of a Belgian white, with hops instead of spices. The result is a beer we're brewing 10 bbls of today... Ziparillo!

Dry hopping mid-fermentation is a great technique for chasing away raw-green hop aromatics that turn-off some drinkers. The problem is that adding hops early makes harvesting yeast far more difficult. Our solution was to use dried yeast. For a fraction of the price of a liquid pitch (~$60 for 500 g dried) it means we don't feel bad not cropping and repitching. Dry yeast also allows for easy strain blending by weight. In this case the test batch was 85% S-04 and 15% WB-06. The goal was to support the fruity hops with a little banana from the hefeweizen strain. An idea I first tried in my American Oat Ale.


The grist is a callback to what we developed for Modern Times Fortunate Islands, still my favorite of their regular offerings. The grains were in turn inspired by Three Floyds Gumballhead. We decided to go a bit lighter on the wheat until we get used to how large amounts of huskless grains lauter on our Forgeworks brewhouse. Hot-side hopping is a single dose of Cascade in the whirlpool. A classic variety with a good blend of oils, but without excessive alpha acids (or cost). Despite that, for the up-scale we're going to lower the whirlpool temperature to ~195F with a barrel of cold water at flame-out to keep the IBUs under 20. Dry hopping with Amarillo for stonefruit aroma.

Hefeweizen yeast, CaraVienna, Cascade, and Amarillo is a combination I tried back in 2010 for this Hoppy Hefeweizen. Not the same intended balance on that batch, but a similar palate of flavors.



The wrinkle in this test batch was that I split it pre-boil. I've been editing Scott's draft for "The New IPA" and the research suggested that many hop oils peak very quickly at higher temperatures and then dissipate. So I split the batch, half with a 20 IBU addition at 60 minutes followed by a flame-out addition immediately after turning on the immersion chiller. The other half I added a hop-stand/whirlpool addition allowing it to sit for 45 minutes before starting the chill. I even left the heat on low to better replicate the slow cooling of a commercial-scale whirlpool.

Going in I was suspicious. I'd changed from quick-chilling to hop-stands a few years ago, and felt that my beers had gotten a better more saturated hop flavor. The beers came out surprisingly similar, but not exactly the same.

Ziparillo - Quick Chill

Smell – Clean yeasty-doughy nose. Banana. Cascade grapefruitiness shines through as the dominant hop character. Certainly reminds me most of hoppy hefeweizens that I’ve brewed previously. Surprising how much yeast character there is from a low percentage of WB-06.

Appearance – Pale-gold, mildly hazy of the standard hefeweizen type. Not milky-haze. Good head retention and cling.

Taste – Bitterness is present, a bit higher than 20 IBUs in my estimate. Crisp finish with some lingering hop resin. Amarillo comes in a bit towards the end, apricot. Odd that I get the kettle hops in the nose and the dry hops in the flavor. The quick chill seems to have imparted a more dry-hop like character. Dry, with a finish that reminds me of some sort of herbal spritzer?

Mouthfeel – Snappy, good firm carbonation, but not as high as a traditional hefe. Dry, slightly tannic finish.

Drinkability & Notes – A nice session beer. The polyphenols from the early-boil addition may be making the bitterness come-across higher than the calculated IBUs would suggest.

Changes for Next Time – Drop the bittering addition to 10 IBUs, and this would be much closer to the balance I was looking for. Nice as is, but likely too bitter for many hop-phobes. Yeast character is a bit distracting.

Ziparillo - Hop Stand

Smell – Similar, but the yeast character comes across as leaning more bubblegum than banana. Slightly more phenolic as well, peppery. Hops are better integrated into the yeast character or maybe just less assertive. I get honeydew melon.

Appearance – Identical. In this case the timing of the boil hops and speed of chilling doesn’t seem to have effected clarity.

Taste – Bitterness seems lower/smoother, and the finish rounder despite the same calculated IBUs. Like the nose the line between fruity yeast and hops is less distinct than the other version. There is more banana than in the nose, but it is still relatively subdued. Hops are bright and citrusy.

Mouthfeel – Smoother, less tannic. Coating compared to the other half. That isn’t a character that necessarily sounds beneficial to a session beer, but in this case it makes it easier and more pleasant to drink.

Drinkability & Notes – Closer to what I was looking for, the hops and yeast meld together into a pleasant fruit salad. Rather than a generic fruitiness throughout the effect is different flavors from nose and mouth, evolving as it warms. One friend noted that it has sort of an Allagash White thing going on, which was exactly my intent.

Changes for Next Time – We’ll be cutting the WB-06 from 15% to 7.5% in the big batch. The taller fermentor should suppress ester production as well. We’ll add a barrel of cold water at the end of the boil to lower the temperature and further smooth the hop bitterness contributed by the whirlpool addition.


Recipe

Batch Size: 12.00 gal
SRM: 4.8
IBU: 18.3
OG: 1.048
FG: 1.008
ABV: 5.25%
Final pH: 4.60
Brewhouse Efficiency: 72%
Boil Time: 60 mins

Fermentables
-----------------
68.2 % - 15 lbs Rahr 2-Row Brewer's Malt
22.7 % - 5 lbs Briess Red Wheat Malt
6.8 % - 1.5 lbs Briess Caravienne
2.3% - .5 lbs Rice Hulls

Mash
-------
Mash In - 45 min @ 158F

Hops
-------
V1
1.00 oz Cascade (Pellets, 5.5% AA) @ 60 min
3.50 oz Cascade (Pellets, 5.5% AA) @ Flame-Out
2.00 oz Amarillo (Pellets, 9.2% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 2

V2
3.50 oz Cascade (Pellets, 5.5% AA) @ Whirlpool 45 min
2.00 oz Amarillo (Pellets, 9.2% AA) @ Dry Hop Day 2

Other
--------
1 Whirlfloc Tablet @ 5 min

Water
-------
18.00 g Calcium Chloride
5.50 g Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate)
9.00 tsp Phosphoric Acid 10%

Calcium
Chloride
Sulfate
Sodium
Magnesium
Carbonate
140
170
100
15
10
90

Yeast
-------
22 g SafAle English Ale S-04
4 g Safbrew Wheat WB-06

Notes
-------
Brewed 8/5/18

5.28 at mash temperature after all additions (~5.5 corrected to room temperature).

Split between two boils:

1. 1 oz of Cascade @60 min, and 3.5 oz of Cascade with a quick chill at flame-out (added hops right after starting IC).

2. 3.5 oz of Cascade with a whirlpool at 212F (with heat) for 45 minutes... mostly stayed 190-200F.

Chilled to 68F, pitched 1 pack of S-04 and 2 g of WB-06 into each (no rehydration). Shook to aerate.

Same fermentation, beer temp 65F.

8/7/15 Dry hopped ~36 hours after pitching. Set beer temp to 68F to continue fermentation.

Kegged 8/16/18

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Monday, August 13, 2018

Homegrown Sour Beer: Cherry, Raspberry, Blackberry, and Mulberry

I've brewed a surprising number of beers with ingredients grown on our .1 acres of Washington, DC. Including hops, cherries, juniper, ground ivy, mulberries... and recently fermented acorns! Rather than showcase a single ingredient though, I wanted to brew an estate beer with five ingredients grown and harvested on our land!

Aged homegrown Cascade hops in the boil.

The extent of the influence of aged hops on sour beer is still a bit underestimated. While the generally stated goal is preventing rapid souring by Lactobacillus in a traditionally fermented lambic, what they add to the flavor and what particular characteristics of the hops best serve this isn't widely studied. There are a few studies that oxidation can boost certain fruity aromatics. Which has lead Scott to threaten to use old hops on the hot-side for a NEIPA... he promised to do a test batch before brewing a 10 bbl batch on the new Sapwood Cellars brewhouse.

I thought it would be fun to brew with aged Cascades from the bines in my backyard, especially because fresh they didn't have a huge aroma. They'd been sitting open in my basement since they were dried a few years before. 

Flour slurry pouring in.

I don't have the space or effort to grow or malt grain, so I took the easy way out and brewed with wheat malt extract (a blend of 65% wheat malt 35% barley). I'd had good results from extract lambics previously, but this time in addition to maltodextrin I added wheat flour slurry to the boil. Mixing the flour with cold water prevents it from clumping when it touches the boiling wort. A turbid mash pulls starch from the unmalted wheat into the boil, which eventually feeds the various microbes in the late-stages of fermentation. The microbes must have enjoyed it as the resulting beers are completely clear.

All of the frozen berries (cherries, blackberries, raspberries, and mulberries.

Fruit was provided by our four berry trees/bushes. Sour cherry, blackberry, raspberry, and mulberry. To keep things easy I added roughly equal amount of each (other than the raspberries). I briefly froze most of the fruit, but I added the raspberries a small handful at a time as they ripen slower than the rest. I only had enough of each for one gallon of beer, as most of the rest of the fruit was spoken for. The leftover beer went onto local plums!

Video Review



Backyard Berries

Smell – Cherry and raspberry lead, not surprising as they are more distinct than the blackberry and mulberry. There is an underlining wine-iness that likely comes from the rest of the fruit. The base beer behind the fruit doesn't make itself known other than a subtle maltiness.

Appearance – Clear garnet on the first pour, a little haze when I emptied the bottle into the glass. Alright head retention thanks to the wheat.

Taste – Reminds of the nose with raspberry up front and cherry jam into the finish. Not as bright and fresh as it once was, but still reasonably fresh. The malt and hops don’t add a huge amount of character, but they support the fruit. The Wyeast lambic blend similarly stays mostly out of the way, adding edge complexity without trying to fight through the fruit.

Mouthfeel – Not a thick beer given the relatively low OG, and all of the simple sugars from the fruit. Solid carbonation, CBC-1 did a good job despite the acidity.

Drinkability & Notes – The combination of four berries works surprisingly well to my palate. They play together without becoming generic fruitiness. The base beer is unremarkable, but that’s fine in a beer where the fruit is the star.

Changes for Next Time – Would be nice to brew more than a gallon, but otherwise my only real changes would be to go all-grain.

The finished mixed-berry sour beer.

Plum-Bus

The rest of the batch went onto a two varieties of local plums. I've brewed with plums before in a dubbel. I wasn't sure about plums in a pale beer, but after trying spectacular examples from Tilquin and Casey I was convinced!

Smell – Clear it isn’t a kettle-soured fruit-bomb, lots of lemon pith and mineral along with the moderate fruit contribution. Plums aren’t nearly as aromatic as the more common sour beer fruits, but they add a depth without covering up the base beer.

Appearance – Beer is more rusty-gold than purple. Clear despite the flour. Thin white head, but this bottle appears less carbonated than the last few I’ve opened.

Plum sour beer.

Taste – Tangy plum skin, apricot, and lemon. Beautiful blend of fruit and beer. Wyeast Lambic Blend with dreg-augmentation again does a really nice job. Strong lactic acid without any vinegar or nail polish. Finish is moderate funk, hay, and overripe stone fruit.

Mouthfeel – Light, but not thin. Carbonation is too low, maybe the cap-job on this one wasn’t perfect.

Drinkability & Notes – Delicious. The plum could be a little juicier and fresher, but it works well. Sad I didn’t leave any of this half unfruited for comparison.

Changes for Next Time – I’d like to keep experimenting with other plum varieties in beer. Glad the pale base worked out well. Despite “plum” being a common descriptor for darker Belgians, actual plums don’t shine with all of that malt.

Defrosting plums in a 3 gallon Better Bottle.

Recipe

Batch Size: 10.00 gal
SRM: 5.5
IBU: 5.3
OG: 1.046
FG: 1.006/1.006
ABV: 5.25%
Final pH: 3.45/3.45
Boil Time: 90 mins

Fermentables
----------------
92.3% - 9 lbs Breiss Bavarian Wheat DME
5.1% - .5 lbs Maltodextrin Powder
2.6% - .25 lbs King Arthur All Purpose Flour

Hops
-------
2.50 oz - Homegrown Cascade: Aged 3-4 Years (Whole, ~1.00% AA) @ 90 min

Yeast
-------
Wyeast Belgian Lambic Blend
or
Omega OYL-218 - All The Bretts
Omega OYL-057 - HotHead Ale

Notes
-------
Brewed 1/15/17

Hops were homegrown and aged open over several years.

Fermented and aged in 6 gallon BetterBottle without transfering. Added some various dregs over the course of fermentation.

7/21/17 Filled a 1 gallon jug with the Wyeast half onto 6 oz each homegrown sour cherries, blackberries, and mulberries (plus maybe an ounce of raspberries - maybe 4 oz total over a couple months). The remainder went onto 3 lbs of methly plums.

8/24/17 Added an additional 1.75 lbs of Castleton plums to the plum portion

12/14/17 Bottled the 2.75 gallons of the plum with 61 g of table sugar and rehydrated CBC-1. Bottled the .8 gallons of backyard fruit with 21 g of table sugar and CBC-1.

All the fruit growing in my backyard!

Friday, August 3, 2018

Brewery Clubs: Both Sides

The first beer club I joined was Lost Abbey’s Patron Sinners in 2008. It was a relatively novel idea at the time, essentially a CSA for beer. It was the easiest way for me to get bottles I’d heard such wonderful things about. Clearly the concept has caught on. For breweries it is an easy win, money months before the beer is ready. For consumers it can be a win, access to limited beers without the need to wake-up early or wait in line.

It’s an easier ask if the beers offered already have a good reputation. Signing up for Lost Abbey's club meant an opportunity to try "whales" like Cuvee de Tomme for the first time. It also gave me access to their microbes… those Red Poppy dregs colonized our first wine barrel for the group Flanders Red.

For Sapwood Cellars, Scott and I are in a bit of a unique situation. Many more of you have read about our homebrew-exploits, listened to us talk brewing, and brewed recipes based on ours than have actually tasted anything we’ve personally brewed (although you may have tasted something I collaborated or consulted on). Although I've been surprised how many people who signed-up mentioned tasting our test batches at festivals as a deciding factor!

Sapwood-Modern Time Collaboration - The Fruitening!

With the barrel program we have planned there is a bunch on money required now: barrels, racks, microbes, equipment, and wort-production. All for beers that we won’t be able to sell until 2019 or even 2020. If you choose to join, your money will go directly to allowing us to get more beer into barrels in the next few months. That will in turn provide a greater variety of stock available for blending, fruiting, and dry hopping. Our goal is to extend our homebrewing roots as long as we can, producing weird and wonderful beers… and dumping beers that aren’t up to our standards!

I completely understand if you don't want to spend $200-500 to buy beers that we haven't brewed or even named yet. I don't want anyone angering a spouse, or blowing their annual beer budget. Most of our beers will be readily available at the taproom, and I'd guess that there will be extra club slots available for 2020. Honestly I see the Wood club as good for someone who lives a less-than convenient trip to the brewery and can only visit a few times a year (but wants to know they can go home with a variety of sour bottles). The Sap club is good for someone local who plans to be a regular and loves fresh hoppy stuff.

We take the trust that people are putting in us seriously. We'll do our best to make sure that not only do you get beer, but it is the best possible beer we can create. That said, there is certainly a chance timelines will be slower than we expect and I'd rather have the final allocation of great beer in early 2020 than rushed bottles with carbonation issues in late 2019.

If you'd rather an experience over beer, today we launched opportunities to join me for a web chat about our sour beers, blending session, commercial brew day, and homebrewing. Most of these are permanently gone once the stock hits zero. There are also a couple slots for a group or anyone who has recently won the lottery to have us design a sour beer or hoppy batch to your tastes, we'll likely do a few of those each year. We still have plenty of merch available as well (shirts, glasses, and inscribed copies of American Sour Beers) for people who can't make it to the brewery!


We should be able to finally brew our first 10 bbl batch in the next few weeks. The last major piece of equipment to arrive is our glycol chiller, scheduled for next Wednesday. All of the piping is run for it already and the concrete pad it will sit on is curing. Other than that, a gas-meter upgrade and a tweak to the usage listed on a 1979 site development plan are the only things between us and opening!

Our first batch is going to be a kitchen-sink brew using the leftover ingredients from the brewery that was previously in the space. It was crushed 18-months ago… we’ll be giving away the wort to anyone interested! Of course, club members will get first dibs... but I'm guessing there will be second and third dibs at least!

I'm shocked at how amazing the response has already been. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who has helped give us a little extra cash buffer, the beer (and our sleep) will be the better for it! We started with 50 memberships for our Founders Club... and they are all gone! Still plenty of the two individual clubs available for the time being, and we'll leave them up until the 2018 (unless they sell-out first).

---------------------------------

Sap Club 2018-2019

Sap Club Membership entitles you to $1/off each full pour or growler at our tasting room with a sweet membership card. It also allows you to purchase growler fills of any fresh hoppy beers, even the special kegs and weird experiments that no one else can bring home - in your club exclusive 1 L growler. Includes admission for two to our annual holiday party (December 2018) and pre-release access to canned IPAs (when that finally happen). This inaugural “year” of the club will run from opening through the end of 2019. First-year members will have right of first refusal for membership in the club's next year.

Wood Club 2019

The Wood club is for sour and funky folks. Membership grants you two .5L bottles of each of our first eight barrel-aged sour/funky bottle releases. This will include at least two releases exclusive to club members - using fruits and other ingredients too rare or costly for large batches. We won’t have a set release schedule as the beers will tell us when they are ready, but we'll allow semi-annual pickups. Plus $2 off and priority access to pre-purchase limited sour beers before the unwashed masses! You’ll also receive a Sapwood decanting basket. 2019 members will have right of first refusal for membership in the club's next year.

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In news closer to the blog, Mad Fermentationist T-shirts are available again, this time print-on-demand style. I've also got posters of the updated Brewery Connections graphic... which will feature prominently in the Sapwood Cellars bathroom decor!